Commentary: California Must Embrace Groundwater Management, And Expand It

We all walk on water. Not literally, but most Californians do walk over the water stored in the aquifers beneath our feet.

This unseen resource is groundwater, which provides 40% of our water supply in normal years, and up to 60% of our supply in times of drought.

With dry periods expected to increase in frequency and duration, groundwater is key to creating a more resilient water supply for drinking water, producing food, and sustaining our precious natural resources. Yet despite its importance, groundwater use in California has been largely unregulated.

OPINION: California Can’t Save Fish By Diverting More Water From rivers

Recent decades have brought the slow collapse of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its salmon runs. A half dozen species face extinction. Lacking natural flushing, the Delta now suffers outbreaks of toxic algae. The salmon fishing industry suffered a shutdown in 2008 and 2009, which cost thousands of jobs. Science points to a clear cause: inadequate flows caused by excessive diversions. In some years, 90 percent of the Tuolumne River is diverted, leaving only 10 percent for salmon and the Bay-Delta. Every Central Valley salmon river also suffers from over diversion in many years.

American Canyon Keeps Sites Reservoir In Its Sights

American Canyon will continue looking to the proposed, massive Sites reservoir in Colusa County to someday help slake its thirst. The city of about 20,000 residents is the only Napa County city without a local reservoir. It depends on the state’s North Bay Aqueduct that pumps water out of Barker Slough, a dead-end slough in the Solano County portion of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Supply reliability is tied to the Sierra snowpack that melts and sends water into the state’s Lake Oroville reservoir that feeds into the Delta. From year to year, it’s wait-and-see how much of the American Canyon allocation will actually arrive.

OPINION: Dan Walters: New Water Deal Isn’t A Political Certainty

Water supply is clearly the most important long-term issue affecting California’s future. It’s also the most politically complicated. Incremental changes in California water policy typically take years, if not decades, to work their way through seemingly infinite legal, regulatory and political processes at federal, state and local levels – and the conflicts often are over the processes themselves.